02 Nov 2019,
November, it came and I don’t even notice. We’re playing back to Singapore, it’s a long flight, 12 hours. Long long long flight.
My phone is playing the song “Nước ngoài (foreign) ” by Phan Mạnh Quỳnh. The song is about the story of young workers who left their family, their country to work abroad, dreaming to have a better life. They usually go to Korea, Japan, France, especially England. Some people go there by the government program, some bo there by themself - illegally.
The moment I’m writing those lines, 39 Vietnamese people’s bodies were found in a container in Essex, England. They died because of the cold temperature. The news convulsed the whole country.
According to the government, 300.000 Vietnamese people try to cross the border to England every year, with a dream to become rich one day. Some people are still chasing that dream, some are not that lucky.
They have no way to come back to Vietnam. They paid lots of money for illegal agents. If they come back, they wouldn’t pay the debt. We have reached the point of no return, even with their life.
That to say going abroad isn’t an easy choice. We have to exchange for many things.
We are luckier than them. We came to Singapore legally and are being paid well. And this what Vietnamese people who are in Vietnam think about us, who are living and working abroad: a rich and good life.
Day by day, more Vietnamese people go abroad to work. Yes, we are being paid well, at least higher than in Vietnam. Even the living cost is higher, but still can save some money, if we know how to economize. But life isn’t just money.
Remembering the time we were still in Vietnam. Every morning, a hot bowl of noodles is ready for us by our mother, or if she doesn’t cook that day, we have so many choices in front of our house. Then we grab a motorbike to have a morning coffee with friends, chat and laugh about life, work then come to the office. At the end of the day, we come back home with dinner is ready. Our father would say: “Oh, come home? Take a shower then eat, my children.” The sound is just so warm and sweet.
On the weekend, I like to sit at a street cafe and talk to our friends, brothers. Still, some complaints about our works, also about the new MV of Son Tung MTP, about the MU vs Chelsea match tonight.
They are simple things. Anyone in Vietnam is like that. And you will miss those simple things when you go abroad. You will miss your mother’s hot noodle bowl, the complaints about the boss from friends and your father’s warm voice.
The next thing you would miss is good. Every morning, when you open your eyes, there are hundreds of things you can eat for breakfast, right in front of the doors. They are mì quảng, phở, bún giò, bún tái, bánh bèo, bánh ướt, cháo,… and the list goes on.
What about in Singapore? Kaya toast and Coffee C. It’s the traditional breakfast in Singapore. Singaporeans eat it every morning! Actually, it’s not bad, but it’s the only choice. Otherwise, you can choose a hundred types of bread which I’m sick with.
How about lunch and dinner? In Vietnam, we have so many delicious foods: mỳ quảng, cơm sườn, bánh tráng thịt heo,… and many types of rice. In Singapore, to be honest, they have many different types of foods: Chinese, Hainanese, Thail, Malay, Indian and Vietnam. But I struggle to find things to eat. Many choices, but they just aren’t to our taste. Twice the time a week, I choose Vietnamese bread (bánh mì) - which I’ve never eaten for lunch and dinner in Vietnam.
Wondering, if we don’t cook at home, we might not stay in Singapore anymore.
We are on the way back to Singapore from our Europe trip. We’ve been to 5 countries, tried many local foods, also Vietnamese food in the place we’ve come. You can say that traveling is to enjoy local food, to experience a different life. But we just live without Vietnamese food. We’re staying abroad, but our souls are in Vietnam.